Adidas severed ties with him. His expertise company dropped him. But on Friday night time, an enviornment on Long Island was crammed with hundreds of people that most actually had not turned their backs on Ye, the artist previously often called Kanye West.
Shortly earlier than releasing “Vultures 1,” his first album since making a string of antisemitic remarks that value him enterprise offers and drew widespread condemnation, Ye previewed his new collaboration with the R&B singer Ty Dolla Sign at a listening party at UBS Arena, additional testing the boundaries of his fandom with lyrics that didn’t tiptoe across the controversy.
“‘Crazy, bipolar, antisemite,’ and I’m nonetheless the king,” Ye raps in “King,” the ultimate track on the LP, which drew a modest wave of cheers.
Ty Dolla Sign and Ye appeared a bit earlier than 11 p.m. on a smoke-filled stage — a minimum of, that was the impression, although it was exhausting to verify who was there. Wearing a full masks, the rapper, designer and longtime provocateur by no means confirmed his face as he exulted in his new music, which included samples from Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and the Backstreet Boys (“Yeezy’s again, all proper!”).
Originally slated to return out in December, delays and false begins pushed the discharge of “Vultures 1” to early Saturday morning, quickly after the hourlong listening party had ended.
As those that confirmed up for Ye on Friday know, persistence is a central tenet of being a fan of the rapper.
In current years, as Ye’s conduct has careened from erratic to excessive, loyal listeners have additionally needed to grapple with the controversial issues he has completed, together with sporting a shirt that learn “White Lives Matter” at Paris Fashion Week, posting on Twitter (now X) that he would go “loss of life con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE” and repeatedly accusing “Jewish media” and “Jewish Zionists” of feeding a paparazzi frenzy and canceling his reveals.
“I’ve needed to clarify myself to lots of people,” mentioned Markus Phillips, 18, itemizing his Jewish buddies and his “buddies who hearken to Taylor Swift” amongst these questioning why he has remained a fan.
“I don’t assist all the pieces that he does outdoors of the music, however I nonetheless acknowledge how a lot of a generational artist he’s,” mentioned Phillips, who had pushed down from Buffalo along with his buddies that day for the occasion.
In a crowd that skewed towards Gen Z, the followers who paid $140 and up for the listening party included those that professed to be totally unbothered by Ye’s actions — “Doesn’t have an effect on me,” one 18-year-old from New Jersey mentioned with a shrug — and people who have been struggling to reconcile the artist they’ve cherished since his first studio album, “The College Dropout,” with the one who mentioned “I do love Hitler” on a chat present with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
“Is he saying it as a result of he means it, or is he saying it as a result of he simply likes to be controversial?” requested Jack Urig, a 20-year-old waiter from New Jersey who was sporting a lavender hoodie that he acquired for donating to Ye’s 2020 presidential marketing campaign as a teen.
“Separating the artwork from the artist” was a standard chorus amongst those that lined up earlier than doorways opened, as have been speculations concerning the position that psychological well being performed in Ye’s conduct. (He has mentioned he was recognized with bipolar dysfunction.) Some most popular to imagine that it was all a efficiency or some kind of attention-grabbing advertising ploy, pointing to his assertion of apology to the Jewish neighborhood — posted in Hebrew — that was launched late final 12 months, as he was making ready to drop new music.
“It was not my intention to offend or demean, and I deeply remorse any ache I’ll have brought about,” Ye mentioned within the submit, writing that he was “dedicated to beginning with myself and studying from this expertise to make sure higher sensitivity and understanding sooner or later.”
The lyrics within the new album hardly talk the identical type of contrition. In the track “Stars,” he raps that he retains “a number of Jews on the employees now.” An notorious line from “Vultures,” the monitor he launched final 12 months during which he raps that he can’t be antisemitic if he had intercourse with a Jewish lady, was probably the greatest identified within the enviornment. The music reduce out for the verse so the gang may shout it themselves.
In an album that encompasses gospel-infused home, R&B and entice, Ye contains a lengthy panel of collaborators, together with Quavo, Playboi Carti, Chris Brown, Lil Durk and for one verse, Ye’s daughter North West, who appeared on the first listening party in Chicago on Thursday. Ye’s verses usually confront the drama over his repute over the previous few years, presenting himself as rising triumphant regardless of his detractors. (“I burned eight billion to take off my chains,” he raps in “Burn.”)
Whether or not the mainstream music business shall be prepared to acknowledge Ye’s new music stays a query. Even earlier than the antisemitic remarks that misplaced him profitable style offers with Adidas, Gap and Balenciaga, the Grammys had dropped Ye as a performer for the 2022 award present, citing his erratic and troubling public conduct, which, on the time, included the discharge of an animated music video that portrayed the kidnapping and burial of a determine who appeared rather a lot like Pete Davidson, the comic who had been courting Kim Kardashian, Ye’s former spouse.
At the world on Friday, many followers mentioned they discovered it exhausting to disentangle Ye from the musical nostalgia of their childhoods — and from their closets.
Wearing Yeezy sneakers to the present, Mahatub Ahmed, 27, mentioned he had 11 extra pairs at residence, and requested, “What do they need me to do? Throw them away, burn them?” Friends and household have puzzled why he doesn’t change his social media handles that play on “Yeezus,” the identify of the rapper’s sixth solo album, however he rebuffs them.
For Shareef Rashid, 47 — who attended along with his 13-year-old son Jair, a a lot newer fan — his relationship with Ye is essentially steeped prior to now. He mentioned he was first drawn to Ye’s 2007 album “Graduation,” with its inventive soul samples and lyrics that resonated with him as a younger, middle-class Black man of roughly the identical age as Ye.
A rapper himself in his free time, Rashid lately posted a snippet of a track during which he says he misses “the primary 4 Kanyes,” and raps of the star: “Put America on blast with all the pieces you say/Now you simply speak as a result of and it don’t really feel the identical method/I hope you’re OK.”
But there’ll at all times be a section of Ye’s fan base for which the calculus is far less complicated: Whatever he says, no matter he does, they are going to stand by him.
Waiting in line to purchase merch, Kiara Fuller, 23, who considers herself a devoted Ye fan, puzzled aloud whether or not the individual behind the masks onstage that night time could be, in truth, Ye.
“We have been on the best way right here and I used to be considering, wouldn’t it’s the funniest prank if it wasn’t even him on the market, and he simply has a random individual doing it?” she mentioned in a gaggle of her buddies.
After touring previous the outskirts of Queens and ready hours for a problematic fave, wouldn’t such a stunt be the ultimate indignity?
“Eh,” Fuller mentioned and shrugged, “simply bought to see it by way of.”